You only need to make a few changes to conserve energy in your home | ParkRecord.com

You only need to make a few changes to conserve energy in your home

Green Up Your Habits

Lighting a room with natural light, rather than artificial light, reduces energy use, particularly when windows are oriented toward southern exposures and act as passive solar power. In addition, when drawn closed, high-quality, heavy curtains or shades can help hold in heat during cool nights. Photo courtesy of Summit Sotheby’s International Reality.

Your home or workplace may be a "green building," but are your daily habits supporting sustainability?

Studies show that green buildings, in and of themselves, don't necessarily motivate people to act environmentally conscious, says Bill Wilson, CEO and founder of Sustain3 in Park City.

"It is possible to have a 'green building' with 'grey occupants' who are not environmentally conscious," according to a 2015 study by Saba Khashe and colleagues about the influence of LEED branding on building occupants' pro-environmental behavior.

"Green features, such as individual heating controls, window shades and waste reduction policies, are only successful when homeowners and employees use them correctly," Wilson says. "All too often, the choices of building occupants negatively influence building performance."

For example, people might rationalize turning up the heat or not turning lights off when leaving rooms, thinking they live, or work, in a "building (that) is already (conserving) for them by nature of its energy efficient design," Wilson says.

When an entire family — or work force — acts this way, they begin to lower their expectations around energy bills, which slowly creep higher, Wilson says. In reality, they're simply over-consuming and offsetting energy savings an efficiently built home or office offers.

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Experts refer to how homeowners use energy as "behavioral energy use." Habits revolving around keeping lights on, electronics plugged in and on, and the heat (or air conditioning) turned up for greater comfort account for 50 percent of more of a homeowner's energy use, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Basically, experts are pointing out that: You can build it, but if they come and aren't aware of environmentally friendly practices when it comes to energy use, it doesn't matter how well it's built; the actions of occupants impact energy efficiency.

"There is a significant opportunity to save energy and other resources through programs targeted at modifying occupant behavior," Wilson says.

Some researchers, like Khashe, assert that if people changed their behavior regarding energy efficiency, it could lead to overall energy savings of 40 percent or more. Others claim the change falls in the 5 percent to 30 percent range. Nevertheless, being conscious of when you could be wasting energy versus saving it makes a difference.

Wilson points out seven ways people can make a difference in their energy consumption:

  1. Become more aware.  To change habits, you need to be aware that there are things you can do differently. This article is your wake-up call.
  2. Manage your comfort. Wear appropriate clothes for the season instead of relying on your building to do all the work of heating and cooling you.
  3. Manage your power.Activate the power management settings on your computer and monitor.
  4. Unplug chargers and other electronics when not in use.
  5. Take advantage of sunlight. Rely on natural light to brighten your home or office instead of overhead lighting.
  6. Think before you print. Print only when you absolutely need to, and always print double-sided.
  7. Power down. Shut down your computer and monitor at the end of each workday.

It might seem like a little step to unplug a charger or put on an extra layer as the temperatures cool, but small steps lead to tangible results.

I’ve seen it myself. My neighbors short-term rent their 5,000-plus-square-foot home, and I estimate that 30 percent of renters “forget” to close the garage doors in the winter. I can just imagine the heating bills, as the furnace works overtime to warm the “heated” garage, and the home’s heat escapes through the two huge gaps during below-zero nights.
— Kimberly Nicoletti

Resources:
Sustain3
801.949.6219
P.O. Box 982311, Park City
http://www.sustain3.com

ENERGY STAR
http://www.energystar.gov